Explore Idaho's Trails

Idaho, with its diverse landscapes ranging from rugged mountains to serene lakes and vast forests, is a hiker's paradise. The state boasts a plethora of trails that cater to all levels of adventurers, offering everything from challenging alpine ascents to leisurely strolls through lush valleys. This article highlights some of the most notable hiking destinations and trails in Idaho, providing a comprehensive guide for outdoor enthusiasts eager to explore the Gem State's natural beauty.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) is one of Idaho's premier hiking destinations. Located in central Idaho, the SNRA covers over 756,000 acres and features more than 700 miles of trails. The area is renowned for its jagged peaks, crystal-clear lakes, and abundant wildlife.

Alice Lake Trail and Sawtooth Lake Trail

The Alice Lake Trail is a 2-mile round-trip hike that takes adventurers through some of the most memorable scenery in the Sawtooth Wilderness. The trail starts at Pettit Lake and winds through remarkable forests with open meadows before reaching the beautiful Alice Lake. Along the trail, adventurers are treated to some of the most breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and may often spot wildlife such as deer and elk.

The Sawtooth Lake Trail is a popular 10-mile round-trip hike that offers spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains. The trail begins at the Iron Creek Trailhead and gradually ascends through forests and meadows, passing by Alpine Lake before reaching the impressive Sawtooth Lake. The lake, boasts clear blue waters and surrounding granite peaks, is an ideal spot for a picnic or a refreshing dip.

Boise National Forest

Located just north of the state capital, Boise National Forest encompasses over 2.5 million acres of diverse landscapes, including rivers, mountains, and forests. The forest offers numerous hiking opportunities for all skill levels.

Table Rock Trail and Stack Rock Trail

The Table Rock Trail is a 3.7-mile round-trip hike that offers panoramic views of Boise and the surrounding area. The trailhead is located near the Old Idaho Penitentiary, and the trail climbs steadily to the top of Table Rock, a prominent sandstone outcrop. From the summit, adventurers may enjoy sweeping views of the city and the Boise River.

The Stack Rock Trail is a 9.5-mile round-trip hike that takes adventurers through dense forests and offers memorable views of the Boise National Forest. The trailhead is located off Bogus Basin Road, and the trail meanders through pine forests and open meadows before reaching Stack Rock, a unique rock formation that provides excellent photo opportunities.

City of Rocks National Reserve

The City of Rocks National Reserve, located in southeastern Idaho, is a unique area known for its dramatic granite formations and rich history. The reserve offers a variety of hiking trails that explore its rugged terrain and scenic vistas.

Creekside Towers Trail and North Fork Circle Creek Trail

The Creekside Towers Trail is a 2.4-mile loop that showcases some of the most iconic rock formations in the City of Rocks. The trail begins at the Bath Rock parking area and winds through the reserve, passing by impressive granite spires and offering excellent opportunities for rock climbing and photography.

The North Fork Circle Creek Trail is a 6.5-mile round-trip hike that explores the remote northern section of the reserve. The trail follows the North Fork of Circle Creek and offers charming views of the surrounding rock formations and valleys. This trail is less frequented, providing a more solitary hiking experience.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Hells Canyon, North America's deepest river gorge, offers some of the most dramatic hiking experiences in Idaho. The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area covers over 650,000 acres and features numerous trails that explore its rugged terrain.

Seven Devils Loop Trail and Snake River Trail

The Seven Devils Loop Trail is a challenging 27-mile loop that takes adventurers around the Seven Devils Mountains, offering breathtaking views of Hells Canyon and the surrounding wilderness. The trail may be completed in three to four days and provides a true backcountry experience. Highlights include the views from He Devil and She Devil peaks and the serene Echo Lake.

The Snake River Trail is a 4-mile one-way hike that follows the Snake River through the heart of Hells Canyon. The trail offers exquisite views of the river and the steep canyon walls. Hikers may start at either the Pittsburg Landing or Granite Creek trailheads and explore various side trails and historic sites along the way.

Sawtooth Wilderness

The Sawtooth Wilderness, part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, is a protected area known for its rugged beauty and extensive trail network. The wilderness area covers over 217,000 acres and offers some of the most scenic hiking in Idaho.

Toxaway to Alice Lake Loop and Redfish Lake to Cramer Lakes Trail

The Toxaway to Alice Lake Loop is a popular 19-mile loop that takes adventurers through some of the most beautiful terrain in the Sawtooth Wilderness. The trail passes by several delightful alpine lakes, including Toxaway Lake, Alice Lake, and Twin Lakes. Hikers are treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and lush meadows.

The Redfish Lake to Cramer Lakes Trail is a 10-mile round-trip hike that starts at the Redfish Lake Lodge and climbs through dense forests and alpine meadows to the scenic Cramer Lakes. The trail offers memorable views of the Sawtooth Mountains and the opportunity to check out wildlife such as deer, elk, and mountain goats.

Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is one of the largest contiguous wilderness areas in the lower 48 states, covering over 2.3 million acres. The area offers a remote and pristine hiking experience, with numerous trails exploring its rugged terrain.

Middle Fork Salmon River Trail and Big Baldy Ridge Trail

The Middle Fork Salmon River Trail is a 25-mile trail that follows the Middle Fork of the Salmon River through the heart of the wilderness. The trail offers charming views of the river and the surrounding canyon, as well as the opportunity to observe wildlife such as bighorn sheep, deer, and bears. The trail may be accessed from various points along the river, making it possible to customize the length of the hike.

The Big Baldy Ridge Trail is a challenging 20-mile round-trip hike that offers beautiful views of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The trail climbs steadily through dense forests and open meadows to the summit of Big Baldy, where adventurers are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness.

Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, located in north-central Idaho, is known for its pristine forests, rugged mountains, and abundant wildlife. The area covers over 1.3 million acres and offers numerous hiking opportunities.

Selway River Trail and Moose Creek Trail

The Selway River Trail is a 50-mile trail that follows the Selway River through the wilderness. The trail offers charming views of the river and the surrounding forests, as well as the opportunity to observe wildlife such as elk, deer, and bears. The trail may be accessed from various points along the river, making it possible to customize the length of the hike.

The Moose Creek Trail is a 4-mile round-trip hike that takes adventurers through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The trail follows Moose Creek through dense forests and open meadows, offering memorable views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Owyhee Canyonlands

The Owyhee Canyonlands, located in southwestern Idaho, is a remote and rugged area known for its dramatic canyons and unique geological formations. The area offers numerous hiking opportunities for those seeking solitude and adventure.

Leslie Gulch Trail and Juniper Gulch Trail

The Leslie Gulch Trail is a 4.8-mile round-trip hike that takes adventurers through one of the most scenic areas of the Owyhee Canyonlands. The trail offers beautiful views of the area's unique rock formations and colorful cliffs, as well as the opportunity to observe wildlife such as bighorn sheep and mule deer.

The Juniper Gulch Trail is a 2.5-mile round-trip hike that explores another beautiful section of the Owyhee Canyonlands. The trail climbs steadily through a narrow canyon, offering excellent views of the surrounding cliffs and rock formations.

Summary

Planning a hiking expedition involves meticulous preparation to ensure a safe and rewarding experience.

Conduct Thorough Research

Begin by thoroughly researching the chosen destination. Familiarize with the terrain, difficulty level, and current trail conditions. Consider seasonal factors such as weather patterns and potential trail closures. Utilize guidebooks, online resources, and detailed maps to gather comprehensive information about the hike.

Chart the Route

Select a route that aligns with physical fitness and experience level. Determine the trail's length, elevation gain, and estimated hiking duration. Identify significant landmarks and water sources along the way. Download or print maps and consider using a GPS device for accurate navigation.

Verify Permits and Regulations

Certain trails may necessitate permits for access or camping. Consult local authorities or park services to ensure the requisite permits are obtained and understand the regulations for the hiking area. This step helps preserve the environment and guarantees a smooth journey.

Assemble Essential Gear

Create a checklist of indispensable gear, including appropriate clothing, durable hiking boots, a backpack, and a first aid kit. Bring sufficient water, high-energy snacks, and meals if the hike extends over a lengthy period. Ensure navigation tools are included, such as a map, compass, or GPS device, and a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.

Prepare for Emergencies

Inform a friend or family member about the hiking plan, including the expected route and return time. Carry a whistle, multi-tool, and emergency shelter. Acquire basic first aid knowledge and understand how to use the gear. In remote areas, consider carrying a satellite phone or personal locator beacon.

Monitor Weather and Trail Conditions

Keep a look out on the weather forecast leading up to the hike. Be ready to adjust plans if adverse weather conditions are predicted. Check trail reports for recent changes or hazards, such as fallen trees, flooding, or wildlife activity.

Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize environmental impact. Pack out all trash, stay on designated trails, and respect wildlife. Leave natural and cultural features undisturbed to preserve the area for future adventurers.

Final Preparations

On the day of the hike, double-check gear and supplies. Ensure there is adequate water and food. Stretch and warm up before beginning the hike to prevent injuries. Maintain a comfortable pace and take regular breaks to appreciate the scenery and stay hydrated.

Idaho's diverse landscapes and extensive trail network make it a hiker's paradise. Whether seeking a challenging backcountry adventure or a leisurely stroll through incredible scenery, Idaho has something to offer. From the rugged peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains to the remote canyons of the Owyhee Canyonlands, Idaho's trails provide unforgettable experiences for outdoor enthusiasts. So lace up the hiking boots, pack the backpack, and set out to explore the breathtaking beauty of Idaho's trails.

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